Medications are only temporary solutions to hair loss. Stop taking them, and they stop working. Hair transplants and other surgical procedures are more permanent, although they can have side effects such as bleeding and infection.
- Hair transplants have been available since the early 1950s, when dermatologist Norman Orentreich performed the first one in New York. Probably the most famous purveyor of surgically implanted locks is L. Lee Bosley, who performed his first hair transplant in 1963, and started his own company in the 1970s. Hair transplant technology has come a long way since the early days of Orentreich and Bosley. Back then, surgeons took plugs of hair from the back of a patient's head, and then simply inserted them into holes of the same size in bald areas, like sticking divots back in grass. Often the hair looked clumpy, or grew at the wrong angle. Today's implants are much smaller and more realistic looking. To perform hair transplant surgery, the doctor injects parts of the scalp with anesthetic to numb it. Then he or she removes tiny pieces of scalp containing the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. Those strips of hair are then implanted in areas of the scalp that are missing hair. Finally, the wounds are stitched up. Because each graft contains only a few hairs, it can take several hours of surgery, and many hundred grafts, to see results. Side effects include infection and scarring.
- Scalp reduction covers bald spots by reducing scalp size. Although it might seem as though your skin fits firmly over your scalp, it can be stretched, which is exactly what doctors do in this procedure. They remove the bald piece of scalp and then pull a hair-covered section of scalp over the area to cover it. A form of scalp reduction called flap surgery covers larger bald spots with flaps of skin and hair taken from the back of the head or other less visible areas.
- Scalp expansion is for people who don't have enough extra skin on the scalp for a scalp reduction. In this technique, a tissue expander is placed under an area that has hair. As the expander stretches outward, it increases the amount of hair-growing tissue available. Then the newly expanded skin with its hair is transplanted over the bald spot.